WASHINGTON - Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of young adults, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl encouraged them to pray and stand up for religious freedom.

Such freedom is being threatened, he said, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that would force Catholic institutions to provide employee health insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, all of which are morally opposed by the Catholic Church.

Published in International

OTTAWA - Canada's Catholic bishops have published a defense of freedom of conscience and religious freedom as these universal rights come under increasing threat around the world.

The Catholic community and other religious groups are "experiencing a worrisome erosion" of these freedoms, said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop Richard Smith in an open letter introducing the "Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religious freedom" published May 14 at www.cccb.ca.

(Right-click and save-as to download the letter as a PDF)

Published in Canada

OXFORD, England - Sarajevo Catholic officials say the city's Muslim-dominated government is not protecting minority rights, but the mayor said his city is committed to providing a home for all religious faiths.

Sarajevo Mayor Alija Behmen said city authorities "treat all citizens equally and pay equal attention to all -- the structure of the city council and city administration is multinational and multireligious."

"Sarajevo has cultivated multiculturalism for centuries, which is a rarity in Europe, and will continue doing so. This is an axiom for our city's authorities," Behmen told Catholic News Service.

Published in International

OTTAWA - Canadians must stand together to oppose Christian persecution that is increasing around the world, said religious and political leaders at an event hosted by a prominent Jewish leader.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said it has become almost politically incorrect to discuss the persecution of Christians. He noted a disturbing trend that blames the actions of Christians in the past for the present persecution.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - For Vatican historians, the roots of a Christian idea of religious liberty go way back: in fact, back 1,700 years to the Emperor Constantine's victory on Rome's Milvian Bridge and to his conversion.

At a Vatican conference in late April marking the anniversary, the head of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences said Constantine's victory in 312 under the sign of the cross was "the foundation of a new world" marked by religious freedom for Christians and separation between church and state.

Published in Features

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has appealed a federal judge's ruling that the Constitution forbids religious accommodation in the delivery of services under a federal contract.

The appeal challenges the decision of District Court Judge Richard Stearns, who said in a March 23 ruling that the Department of Health and Human Services violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution in delegating to the bishops' conference the decision on which services to offer or not offer to foreign-born victims of human trafficking under a federal contract.

Published in International

VATICAN CITY -- The current U.S. debate over religious freedom should inspire Catholics in Europe to seek greater legal protection of their right to conscientious objection, according to a retired Vatican cardinal.

Believers and institutions must have a legal right to invoke conscientious objection when faced with "legislative norms that, because of their moral implications, are in conflict with moral norms officially affirmed by one's religious authorities," said Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, former president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Published in International

The right of religious freedom means much more than merely being allowed to hold faith beliefs and go to church. Those are essential, of course, but a society that truly endorses religious freedom goes further. It also allows citizens to outwardly live their faith through the public activities they take up and, equally important, through those their conscience informs them to avoid.

In defence of that traditional understanding of religious freedom, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a bold statement four days after Easter. Titled “Our first, most cherished liberty,” the 12-page document is a manifesto for religious freedom that is blunt, provocative, timely, commendable — and worthy of export beyond American borders. Canadians should take note.

Published in Editorial